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A large public park jutting out into the Waitemata Harbour with enough space for a memorable building is the centrepiece of the latest waterfront Tank Farm development unveiled yesterday.

After a delay of more than a year marked by difficult negotiations, the public bodies responsible for turning a bleak industrial precinct to the east of downtown Auckland into a vibrant waterfront have finally signed a historic agreement.

The first stage, building a bridge from Viaduct Harbour to an entertainment strip on Jellicoe St, should be completed in time for an estimated 60,000 international visitors for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee said Auckland would finally get the waterfront it deserved with greater public access, a large park and the provision for a landmark building without disturbing the marine and fishing industries in the area.

After last year's public uproar over apartments dominating the 8ha headland jutting out into the harbour, the ARC's investment arm, Auckland Regional Holdings, and Auckland City Council have agreed on a 4.25ha park that will be developed following an international design competition.

The park, to be completed in about 10 years, will be large enough for a public building, such as an art gallery or museum.

The plan includes 2.4km of public access to the waterfront and a 40m-wide, tree-lined boulevard from Victoria Park to the park.

Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard said the council and ARC had listened to Aucklanders who clearly wanted greater access to the water's edge.

"This is a day of celebration. It is a gift to our children and grandchildren."

Opening up the finger wharves at the bottom on Queen St - Queens, Captain Cook and Marsden wharves - which won considerable public support at the time of last November's debate on the waterfront stadium, has again been put on hold.

Auckland Regional Holdings, which owns Ports of Auckland, has asked for a report on freeing up the wharves from the ports company for public use.

Mr Lee said the focus now was the 35ha Tank Farm development, which is expected to take 20 to 25 years to complete.

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney said the latest plans for the Tank Farm were a major improvements on the "wasteland" offered to Aucklanders 18 months ago.

"It needs a good dose of heightened public input again before we settle on a 'waterfront wide' plan," he said.

The National Party's Auckland Issues spokesman, Wayne Mapp, welcomed the latest plans for redeveloping the Tank Farm, saying they would have benefits for all New Zealanders.

"It is just a pity it will take 20 to 25 years to finish," Dr Mapp said.

"What we need to see now is some true imagination to design a world-class iconic building, which will be one of the key features of the redevelopment."

What happens next?

The public will have the opportunity to comment on the latest plans when the Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council release plan changes for the area, possibly next weekend.

The city council is responsible for rezoning the land from marine industrial to a mix of residential, commercial and other uses. The regional council is responsible for coastal consents.

Once the plan changes are in place - appeals could drag this out - work on stage one could begin next year and take about five years.

Te Wero bridge, named after Te Wero island on the Viaduct Harbour side, will be built after an international design competition.

The bridge will provide a continuous link running from Quay St, through the Viaduct Harbour, to Jellicoe St. Stage one will include a plaza at the intersection with the 40m-wide boulevard running from Victoria Park, and a landscaped stormwater pond at the eastern end of Jellicoe St.

Stage two, which includes the large headland park, is expected to be built between 2014 and 2017 when leases on this land run out.

There are two further stages on the remaining publicly owned land at the Tank Farm, which totals 18ha.

Who is picking up the tab?

The Tank Farm, the largest waterfront development in Auckland, is a multibillion-dollar project to be completed over 25 years.

The cost of public infrastructure, such as parks, plazas, roads, stormwater and sewerage, is about $450 million.

About $310 million of this cost is expected to come from development contributions. ARH is putting up $112 million from its investments and Auckland City is putting in $34 million from rates, less than the $41 million cost of the Queen St upgrade.

The council has a further $7 million to $8 million put aside to buy 1.1ha of land just to the west of the Harbour Bridge for a new park, Westhaven Drive and 0.5ha at Teal Park to expand its waterfront land holdings. The council already owns Westhaven Marina and is preparing a plan this year to have the area redeveloped by 2011.

What else is planned for the waterfront?

Despite widespread calls last year to open up Queens, Captain Cook and Marsden wharves for public use, there are no immediate plans to do so.

The wharves are still used by Ports of Auckland for used-car imports and to store bananas and other fruit - and the ports company has shown no willingness to shift its operations any time soon.

The city council is planning to turn a scruffy area just to the west of the harbour bridge into a park and buy Teal Park and transform it as the entrance to Tamaki Drive.

The council is pushing ahead with a marine events centre at the end of Halsey St alongside the Viaduct Harbour for events such as boat shows.

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